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ishment, and which could never have been im. peached, if he had damned the world of men, as he has the world of apostate angels; because men have violated a law which is infinitely just and reasonable, the requirements and threatenings of which are perfectly equitable. As a murderer is justly condemned to suffer death, so every transgressor of the divine law becomes as justly liable to be punished with everlasting destruction.
Reflect on the nature of his crime, or the guilt that he hath contracted. We judge, in common, of the nature of an offence, by the dignity of him against whom it is committed. Should we admit this rule here, it will follow, that sin has in it in, finite guilt, because committed against an infinite God. Infinite it must be also, seeing an infinite punishment is assigned to the impenitent and unbelieving. As the punishment is, which a most righteous being has determined to inflict, such must be the crime; otherwise the penalty exceeds the offence, which would be an act of injustice: this no man dare to insinuate of the Judge of all the earth, who ever has done, and ever will do right. That the punishment to be inflicted on sinners will be infinite, is manifest through the whole scriptures. It is said, the worm dieth not, (Mark ix. 44.) the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever, (Rev. xiv. 11.) the wicked shall go into EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT, (Matt. xxv. 46.) In the same verse St. Matthew declares, that the righteous shall go away into life eternal. It is readily granted, that life eternal in this place intends end. less felicity, or is to be taken in a strict and proper sense. Why everlasting punishment, which is an antithesis to it, should not be taken in a like
sense, that is, to import an unlimited duration, no probable reason can be assigned. We find the evangelist makes use of the same word (a.crv.) in the original, to express both the duration of the punishment of the wicked and the happiness of the righteous; thereby informing us, that the eternity of the one is commensurate with the eternity of the other; meaning that it is without end. Seeing, therefore, that a most just God would never inflict a penalty that exceeds the nature of the crime, and has in this case declared that the finally impenitent and unbelieving shall be punished with an infinite punishment, it follows that the guilt of sin is infinite.
Consider the requirement of the law, even perfect obedience. Nothing less will be accepted as a condition of the divine favour, if we are to enter into life upon this principle.
Bear in mind the circumstances of the sinner : he is in a state of moral impotence; destitute of all moral rectitude ; yea, dead in sin.
Thus you find, that an infinite God is offended by the violation of a law, holy, just and good; that the sinner has thereby contracted infinite guilt, and is reduced to a state of absolute poverty and wretchedness ; while the law curses every one that continueth not in all the things that are written in the book of it, to do them. What can this poor creature do, in order to work out a salvation from such guilt as this ? Can he make atonement for one of the offences that he hath coinmitted? or satisfy divine justice for the violation of the law? Wherewith can the sinner, in such deplorable circumstances, expiate infinite guilt ? Men and angels are unequal to the task;
and Jesus Christ alone MIGHTY TO SAVE, ABLE TO
SAVE TO THE UTTERMOST.
Surely St. Paul better understood that gospel which he received by the revelation of Jesus Christ, than to address a sinner, poor, and blind, and naked, in such a manner.
First tell him that he can do nothing, and then exhort him to do every thing. Paul was not such a preacher. He assures us that it is by grace we are saved, through faith ; and that not of ourselves : it is the gift of God. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, NOT ACCORDING TO OUR WORKS, (be they of the law or of the gospel) but according to his own PURPOSE and GRACE, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
2. Neither can the apostle mean by this exhortation, that salvation from the guilt of sin is wrought out partly by Christ and partly by the sinner; or that the sinner is to do what he can, in expectation that Christ will make up the deficiency. This sentiment is no less contradictory to the whole gospel, than the preceding; for it teaches us, that Christ is not a complete Saviour, and that our own arm in part brings salvation. It reflects grossly on the Redeemer, as though he were not every way able to save ; and affords the sinner something to boast of before God. For suppose that part be ever so small, that he can perform, still it is a part; and for so much as he can do, by way of atonement for his sins, he may take the praise to himself.
Besides, what sort of a righteousness, suppose ye, must that be, that is wrought out partly by Christ, and partly by the sinner? The former, an infinitely perfect Being; the latter, a totally pol
luted creature. It would bear resemblance to Neb. uchadnezzar's image, the parts of which it was impossible ever to unite.
Again—The work of salvation was finished by Christ, and he had ascended to the glory of his Father, before these Philippians had heard the gospel. Nothing remained, when Paul went to preach to them, but the special application of its inesti, mable blessings. Accordingly, he took the greatest pains to persuade them, that all their own righteousness was loss and dung: and how. ever warm he was in his exhortations to obedi. ence, he would always have them to know that salvation was alone of Christ.
Farther-The persons to whom the words were immediately spoken, were believers; and at that very time in a state of actual justification. By him all who BELIEVE are justified from all things. They could not, therefore, with any propriety be exhorted to do something, by which they might be justified before God.
3. Neither are we to suppose, that St. Paul de. signed by this exhortation to teach these believers, that by virtue of a stock of grace already received, they were to persevere till they should obtain final salvation. This would contradict all those passages of holy scripture, which declare a believer's weakness in himself, and his dependence on Christ, the only head of influence, for constant supplies of grace. His having been enabled to believe in the Son of God does not render him self-sufficient. Still, if left to himself, he may fall foully, like David and Peter. It is not in consequence of any degree of grace already received, that the believer shall safely per
Bevere to eternal glory; but by virtue of a vital union to the Lord Jesus Christ, out of whose fulness he is said to receive, and grace for grace. This important and comfortable sentiment is beautifully taught us by our divine Lord, in the metaphor of the vine and its branches, (John xv. 4, 5.) As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine ; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches, Observe, Christ first introduces the simile, and then accommodates it : q. d. It is thus between me and you : I am the vine, to whom ye as branches are united. The branches are united to, and one with the vine ; so are ye united to me, and one with me. The branches, by a full supply of sap from the vine become fruitful : so ye being continually supplied with grace, out of that fulness, which it hath pleased the Father should dwell in me, bear much fruit.
This sentiment is confirmed by numerous pas, sages of scripture. Christ assured his disciples in the same chapter, that without him they could do nothing. Without his abiding in them by his Holy Spirit, and their abiding in him by faith, they could do nothing comfortably, successfully, or acceptably. Their consolation is in Christ, and if left by him, they drag on heavily like Pharoah's chariots, when they had lost their wheels. Their successful opposition to the world, the flesh, and the devil, is owing entirely to help from Christ. In all these things we are more than conquerors, through him who loved us. And the acceptance of their persons, and their obedience, is only through Christ. He is the sole medium of access to God,